Henry Rodriguez (Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)

Nationals reliever Henry Rodriguez underwent surgery Friday to clean up a bone spur in his throwing elbow, the first public mention that there was anything wrong with his right arm. The right-hander first said that his elbow was bugging him two weeks before he landed on the disabled list with a sore back earlier this month.

Nationals team doctor Wiemi Douoguih performed the surgery and Rodriguez, 25, won’t be able to pick up a baseball for 10 to 12 weeks, Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said. He is expected to return by next spring training.

The revelation and surgery puts Rodriguez’s up-and-down season in context. In spring training, he found his command and then earned the closer’s job when Drew Storen underwent April surgery for a similar elbow injury. Rodriguez, a fireballer with perhaps the best stuff on the team, was perfect in his first five save opportunities and then his wildness started to re-appear. 

It’s unclear when the bone spurs began to affect his performance or when it first started to hurt the right-hander. Rizzo said Rodriguez first mentioned the pain two weeks before he landed on the disabled list on Aug. 1 with a sore back. (He previously missed 24 games in June with a finger injury.) Rizzo also said that Rodriguez’s elbow felt better when he warmed up and loosened his arm.

“Henry’s a tough guy,” Nationals Manager Davey Johnson said. “He’s strong. He’s probably used to pitching with discomfort. And I can’t imagine him complaining, even if it was a performance, he wasn’t going to blame it on anything. Didn’t want to take the chance of having us thinking there was something wrong because he’s been able to pitch through it.”

Rodriguez had no ligament damage, and the bone spur and the area was cleaned up, Rizzo said. There’s a possibility that Rodriguez could be back in time to pitch in the winter leagues but, at the moment, that seemed unlikely, he added.

“Henry has got great upside and he’s a power pitcher,” Rizzo said. “And if this injury prevented him from performing at his accustomed level, that’s a good thing. Because when he gets healthy he should revert back to the guy we saw in spring training and the guy we saw at the beginning of the season.”

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